April 29, 2003

Apple Music Store has many gems but not everything

I have been having fun with the Apple Music Store in iTunes 4. The store only has 200,000 songs, which is not that many if one has eclectic tastes, but I did find Trash Can Sinatras, but did not find many other finds. I did pick-up a few songs that I have on vinyl that I have not been able to find the disc in stores. The international selection is lacking and I hope they start filling in some of the gaps in the near future. The interface is good and the quickness to start to play is fantastic as is the quality of the sample and downloads.

I may rip a CD or two with MPG4 on a higher rate to check the clarity and file size. I have a good collection of music ripped between Joy's collection and mine, which has been great on trips and just hanging out or working.

This is one of the many days I am overjoyed to have a Mac.

April 28, 2003

Apple changes music buying and bring reality to the industry

Michael Sippy expounds on Apple iTunes 4 and music store, which sounds much like my life, but I do still buy CDs (but only if they are less than $15). I have found virtually nothing coming out of the major record labels for the last 5 years that was worth buying. I can find five to 10 discs each year I am interested in buying, but very little of it is the interchangable Brittney's or the 400 Machbox 20 Wannabee's. The major labels over produce garbage by the truckful and wonder why they can't sell music. Things get so bad for the industry they hire a mindless shill to point fingers at pirates. Ever look at what many of these folks have downloaded? Much of it is not forsale in the local record store. Now with Apple it looks like there is no need for the major labels if Apple starts picking up indi artists. It looks like somebody is finally smart enough to make money on in the music industry. Mabye the shrill shill will go away and take her lawsuits with her.

TiBook antennae tweak

Yesterday I ran across Matt's TiBook Wifi antennae tweak, which is found in Ars Technica's Open Forum and was suggested by Apple tech support. I can no sit in my living room only 15 feet away from the office and get a full Airport signal. I was only getting minimal signal and had to sit in just one spot. I am glad this bubbled up.

April 26, 2003

Jeff Veen on urban design

Also in Jeffrey Veen's recent postings are insights on Urban Design. I was reminded of the experience urban design can have on the users of the city on my trip to Portland, Oregon. Portland is extremely walkable and has much character downtown, even on weekends. The downtown space of Portland is created to enhance public transportation and on a weekend day it does not have the vacant echoing canyon feeling of other cities' downtown areas.

Tantek on handrolling weblogs and hand built CMS

Tantek discusses Jeffrey Zeldman handrolling his own RSS feeds (as well as his own site). Tantek also discusses those who still handroll their own weblogs as well as those that have built their own CMS to run their blogs. This was good to see that there are many other that still build their own and handroll (I stopped handrolling October 2001 when I implimented my own CMS that took advantage of a travel CMS I had built for myself).

Great news for Anil as he joins Type Pad and Movable Type company

There was great news this week from Anil who has recently become a member of Six Apart, which was recently funded (yes, great products do still get funded and money is still around for great products). Six Apart are the makers of Movable Type, and just introduced, Type Pad. This was the best string of news I have heard in a long time.

Quite time here

Yes, things have been quite here, largely due to a cold/allergies, which has left my head feeling like it is filled with shaved rubber eraser bits swimming in foggy jello. This roadblock started with a cough, extremely worn down, and achy so yes, the first thing I did was go to the CDC to peek at basic info on SARS. I am not worried about SARS, but the last thing I would want to do is infect others.

April 19, 2003

Interview with Fink Project Lead Max Horn

OSNews has a very good interview with Fink project leader Max Horn offering insight into Fink (Mac OS X application that allows incorporating Linux/open source applications into the Mac native graphics framework) and Fink Commander development.

Indi on site navigation and keeping it under control

Indi Young provides a great guide for building browsing structures in her article Site Navigation: Keeping It Under Control.

Blurbs: Writing previews of Web pages

A February 2001 article by Dennis Jerz discusses Blurbs: Writing Previews of Web Pages, which is very helpful information that helps annotate links to ease and assist the users understanding what is behind "door number 2". The blurbs help the user by providing more than the short snippet in a link. This makes the browsing structures much more friendly.

Safari getting better, but still has some bumps

I am guessing most everybody that has Mac OS X is aware that Safari browser has a new Beta release (build 73), which has added some new elements (such as tabs), and fixed some bugs.

One element they have not addressed is tabbing through form forms. I don't like switching between the mouse and keyboard as I prefer to stick with one imput device when working on a task. The Safari browser frustrates me as I can not fillout forms easily with out grabbing the mouse to choose an item in a select box (menu) or to click radio buttons. Tabbing between these elements is a common interface function that is in nearly every other browser I can think of.

I tend to fill in many forms, one I regularly fill out is the one that builds what you are reading here. I can enter text in the body of the entry and I can add a title for the entry, but selecting location and entry type, as well as clicking the categories that apply are only doable with a mouse.

I do like the spelling functionality in Safari, the speed of the page builds, and other nice features, but the lack of tabbing through forms properly is a large down side. I am tending to enter longer entries in Safari and shorter entries in Camino (formerly Chimera).

One of the other downsides is not all pages are working properly in Safari yet. The International Herald Tribune is very buggy in Safari still and some sites still do not even appear. It is getting there and I know if I use other, slower browsers I can get to the information properly.

Busness Week floods on WiFi

Business Week has a section focus on WiFi, which made me feel so ahead of the game, but most of my fiends were on board long before I was a year or two ago. There are many good articles for those that are just catching up to WiFi (pronounced like why-fi (as in sky)) and even some info for veterans.

April 16, 2003

Macworld monster May disk

Those of you who are Mac users will like to know the MacWorld May issue of the magazine does not have a CD with it on store shelves, it has a DVD with it. I let my subscription lapse because the subscription did not come with a disk. The may disk has 500 product reviews and demos on it and 350 shareware apps, plus the usual reviews, demos, and Breen movie. This is the mother of all extra disks.

Using HTML tags properly to help external search results

There are some essentials to building Web pages that get found with external search engines. Understanding the tags in HTML and how they are (rather should be) used is important. The main tags for most popular search engines are the title, heading (h1, h2, etc), paragraph (p), and anchor (a). Different search engines have given some weight in their ranking to metatags, but most do not use them or have decreased their value.

Google gives a lot of weight to the title tag, which is often what shows in the link Google gives its user to click for the entry. In the title tag the wording is important too, as the most specific information should be toward the front. A user searching for news may find a weblog toward the top of the search ahead of CNN, as CNN puts its name ahead of the title of the article. A title should echo the contents of the page as that will help the ranking of the pages, titles that are not repeated can get flagged for removal from search engines.

The headings help echo what is in the title and provide breaking points in the document. Headings not only help the user scan the page easily, but also are used by search engines to ensure the page is what it states it is. The echoing of terms are used to move an entry to the top of the rankings as the mechanical search engines get reinforcement that the information is on target for what its users may be seeking.

The paragraph tags also are used to help reinforce the text within them.

The anchor tags are used for links and this is what the search engines use to scrape and find other Web pages. The text used for the links is used by the search engines to weight their rankings also. If you want users to find information deep in your site put a short clear description between the anchor tags. The W3C standards include the ability to use a title attribute which some search tools also use. The title attribute is also used by some site readers (used by those with visual difficulties and those who want their information read aloud to them, because they may be driving or have their hands otherwise occupied) to replace the information between the anchor tags or to augment that information.

Example

The application I built to manage this weblog section is build to use each of these elements. This often results in high rankings in Google (and relatedly Yahoo), but this is not the intent, I am just a like fussy in that area. It gets to be very odd when my posting weblog posting review of a meal at Ten Penh is at the top or near the top of a Google Ten Penh search. The link for the Ten Penh restaurant is near the bottom of the first page.

Why is the restaurant not the top link? There are a few possible reasons. The restaurant page has its name at "tenpenh" in the title tag, which is very odd or sloppy. The page does not contain a heading tag nor a paragraph tag as the site is built with Flash. The semantic structure in Flash, for those search engines that scrape Flash. Equally the internal page links are not read by a search engine as they are in Flash also. A norm for many sites is having the logo of the site in the upper left corner clickable to the home page of the site, which with the use of the alt attribute in a image tag within an anchor link allow for each page to add value to the home page rant (if the alt attritute would have "Ten Penh Home" for example).

Not only does Flash hinder the scapeing of information the use of JavaScript links wipes out those as means to increase search rankings. Pages with dynamic links that are often believed to ease browsing (which may or may not prove the case depending on the site's users and the site goals in actual user testing) hurt the information in the site for being found by external search engines. JavaScript is not scrapable for links or text written out by JavaScript.

Time theories and information gathering

Ftrain's accordian time I found to be enjoyable. I enjoy time theories and find this to be close to my own personal favorite as accordian time accounts for the percieved difference in time. Some folks have a, so called, strong inner clock that is in step with metered time.

Chronological time is problematic for many as their lives feel wholly out of step with the beating minutes regulated to 60 seconds. Time seems to move in spurts and is quasi-random. My personal time theory to account for the difference in perceived time is that everybody is on a different time pace and some folks do have time moving faster for them, while others have time moving far more slowly. These differences are synched at night so that we all can work and play together. This is just an unsubstantiated theory on my part, but I am happy to find others thinking of other time measurements that can account for perceived differences in time.

Alan Lightman has a collection of time scenarios in his Einstein's Dreams. I found ED a wonderful quick read that added a wonderful collection of time theories to my existing stack. It has been a few years since I read ED, but it seems about right to pull it off the shelf and have another go.

Time, or perceived time, is important to understand when developing applications and information structures. Different individuals will become frustrated if they can not find the information they seek when they desire that information. This is partially dependant on the persons perception of the passage of time or their relation to metered time. A person who normally has time passing slowly may find most information is easily found, but if they are trying to trackdown the address for a date or interview in a relatively short time before the event the persons perception of time may increase. This impacts the perceived ease of finding information or re-retrieving that information. The frustration for this person may increase as they can feel the minutes or seconds slipping away. This cognative element is helpful to understand as we test and build interfaces.

April 15, 2003

April showers in the basement

A phrase some of you will understand... Pin-hole leak. Oh yeah, we have copper misting forth and plumbers avoiding the phones. I have the house to myself and a misting spray in the basement. I would turn off the water at the main, but the corrosion around that valve has made that a tenuous endeavor also. Well I have buckets and tape (to direct the spray into the buckets). We have been waiting for an estimate from a plumber to repipe the house as we know there have been leaks in the past. Our copper pipes have patches every 18 inches to two feet. We have been lucky not to have a leak yet. I only wish we could have made it to repiping first.

OmniOutliner updated with Visio import and export

OmniGraffle 3.0 is out today as is the Pro version. The Pro version has import and export of files with Visio 2002 (using the Visio XML format) and includes mouseless editing (these two features could make the Pro version worth it for me). The interface has received an complete redesign and is much better incorporated into OS X, which version 2 ran very well under. The regular version will output files to PDF, PNG, JPEG, and HTML (among others), if the HTML is as clean as the OmniOutliner this will be a treat. I have been looking forward to this upgrade of one of my favorite tools.

April 14, 2003

Philip Greenspun has a view of the future university

Philip Greenspun offers his view of the university of the future. It is a very different view and part of it is somewhat odd, in that Philip would like to see large group work areas for students to huddle by subject area. This is odd as Philip is very wired, but it also makes sense in that the bits I hear about ArsDigita convey the collaborative environment it offered.

I rather liked the Spring and Summer breaks, which meant I had to work, sometimes up to three jobs. But it was a time to digest what I had studied in the previous nine months. This time allowed me to investigate subjects with more time to reflect. My favorite time in college may have been the summer I lived in Berkeley and had two jobs (one on campus and the other running roomservice at a hotel in Oakland). I also really enjoyed Jan-term (one course during the month of January two or three hours a day four days a week.

I do agree that the cost of a university education is getting out of hand. Joy and I went to Georgetown for brunch on Sunday at the Tombs and walk around the campus. We read that tuition will be $28k next year for tuition (that does not include book, bedding, or beer). That is just nuts. I got a great grad school education there and Joy a great under grad education, but we were a little shell shocked. Something needs to change I guess.

April 13, 2003

Mac OS X Hacks proves to be very good

This weekend I picked up Mac OS X Hacks by Rael Dornfest and Kevin Hemenway for O'Reilly Books. I have picked up a few new tricks and have some new shareware to look into. The price is very reasonable, which made it an easy decision to purchase. The book is well written and has been bed time reading and couch reading, which has not worked well for getting too many of the good ideas implemented, but that will come.

One interesting section (there are 100 sections) is a speach recognition section that incorporates Perl, AppleScripting, SOAP, speach recognition, and voice output. This contribution by John Udell was a very juicy tidbit that had me thinking of all the wonderful uses.

Perl for Website Management book site

The Perl for Website Management book is helpful, but even more so are the samples found at the book site. There is even a Perl for Website Management book Wiki that has some of the samples and some other related info.

I have found the book to be very helpful for giving ideas and means to approach dealing with Web access logs.

LSE Information Science Working Papers

I stumbled across the London School of Economics, Information Science Working Papers, which has some interesting offerings. I want to come back to this and read more of these. Mobile Services: Functional Diversity and Overload (PDF) and Mobility: an Extended Perspective (PDF) have been interesting and are sitting in my research directory for more mulling.

April 10, 2003

Boxes and Arrows up for a Webby

I must mention Boxes and Arrows is up for a Webbie Award. Congrats to all the other alumni staff who helped get this wonderful resource off the ground and to the current staff that keep this great gift running and being so wonderful. Most of all to Christina Wodtke for having this crazy idea.

April 8, 2003

Creating Controlled Vocabularies - IA Foundation Series

Creating a Controlled Vocabulary article is up at Boxes and Arrows and is another great tutorial from Karl Fast, Fred Leise, and Mike Steckel. This is just one of a series that builds the foundation for information architects.

April 7, 2003

Flash takes bigs steps forward then over the cliff

Jeff Veen discusses the Macromedia attempt at accessibility for Flash in his most recent post. Flash MX is a great improvement, but still is not all the way to accessibility, and can still keep a well done site from meeting Section 508 compliance. One of the big downsides of the current Flash build is using Flash mixed in a page with HTML. A user must have the ability to use alternate methods to move around a page, which means with out a mouse. This is often done with tabbing or voice commands. Flash does now have the capability to replicate what has been done for years in HTML, but if you add a Flash element into a HTML page the focus never releases from the Flash component. A user can not tab anywhere or even escape from the page as the cursor is stuck. If the person could use a mouse this would not be a problem, but that is not what leads to compliance.

If you use mobile devices the Flash interface is a miserable experience as Flash is vector based and will shrink to fit the screen size. Imagine trying to use a screen designed for 800 pixels wide on a 220 wide mobile screen. Forget it.

The forms in Flash are not quite ready for prime time either. I was at a rack server trying to update information in a Flash form on the Macromedia site and I was tabbing because the hyper trackball was horrible. Flash walked me down the page, but the focus moved under the bottom scroll bar with out bringing the screen focus up so I could see the form box I was having to deal with. This is flat out unacceptable, as HTML has had this right for years. Not only that, but I had a validation error and the alert was placed at the top of the Flash screen and out of site as it had scrolled up. The ability to scroll or move the screen until the alert was clicked was disabled, this took expanding the screen to full size to click the bottom of a button on the alert that I could not read.

Flash needs a motto like, "Flash -- the tool that gives uneducated interface developers the ability to create unusable forms and user experiences just to have buttons and scroll bars with indiscernible color shades" or "Flash -- for interfaces you don't want people to use"

Macromedia seems to have taken large strides with Flash, but then just stepped right over the cliff.

April 6, 2003

Enjoyed Bend it like Beckham

We took a little timeout last night to go see Bend it like Beckham here in Bethesda. The movies was fun and sweet. It is a great break from much else that is out or has been out lately. We may go see it again it was that much fun.

April 2, 2003

Matt Jones looses faith in navigation

Matt picks up on the failure of navigation and points to similar conversations to ones I had with Stewart that turned me to look for something other than navigation as a means to build information structures. Each user approaches information with two of their own receptors, cognitive and sensory receptors. The cognitive elements include vocabulary and rhetoric (essentially writing style). The sensory include visual elements, which include color, texture, and layout. Layout includes the visual structure and context given through proximity. These two seem to have paralells to Andrew Dillon's semantic spatial model, but I want to know more about his model.

Matt discusses the problems with navigation consistancy at the BBC sites. Here is where navigation gets in the way, as browsing structures is a better term and less restrictive. The user needs a means to find other information that is related or provides context to the information the see on their screens. If there is some attraction to the information infront of the user they often believe what which they seek will be close by if the information is grouped by like information. Much like a market where produce is grouped together, as they are like products.

April 1, 2003

iSociety - Mobile Phones and Everyday Life

iSociety Mobile Phones and Everyday Life, is a report looks at the impact of mobile devices as they impact everyday life. Looking at how we work with mobile devices today will help us set a framework for the future.

Programming for Information Architects

Andrew Otwell provides a fantastic article at Boxes and Arrows Programming for Information Architects. This is a great overview for those IAs that are not familiar with programming. Heck it is a good resource for anybody not familiar with programming.

IA Summit Reviewed at Boxes and Arrows

Boxes and Arrows has posted their summaries of the IA Summit in two parts, Friday and Saturday at the IA Summit and Sunday at the IA Summit held in Portland. The write-ups are very good and leave one wanting more. There are links to outside resources for the presentations and other reviews of the conference.

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